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I’ve argued before that we have become over-connected (myself included) because of social media. My own Facebook account and the 1,352 people that are exposed to my daily thoughts has grown into a sprawling megalopolis of people’s selfies, videos, links, photos, political discussions, unexpected John Cenas, drama, and everything that people just want to get off of their chest and out into the world.

Social media is a double-edged sword. It can be used to tear people down. It can be used to build people up. It can be used to store great memories that you had with your relatives and friends. It can be used to showcase your travels. However, the last thing could unintentionally spark something called fear of missing out (FOMO), which could, in turn, trigger anxiety and depression in young people, according to an Australian study.

While numerous studies have linked excessive social media usage to depression and anxiety, many have agreed that excessive time on social media is not the root cause. Dr. Mubarak Rahamathulla, senior social work lecturer at Flinders University in Australia, said that there could be a disconnect between one’s online persona and one’s real persona. “Teens today are somehow getting confused between the online world and the real world. There is a very strong positive correlation between the hours spent on digital technology and higher stress and depression,” Rahamathulla said, confirming the results of several other studies linking mental health and social media.

The survey asked questions on social media use and experience, and questions directly related to FOMO. Over half of teenagers admitted to using social media 15 minutes before going to bed. 37 percent used social media in the presence of others, while around a quarter said they use social media even while eating meals.

Some of the other numbers are directly tied to FOMO: among teenagers, 57 percent admitted finding difficulty in sleeping or relaxing after spending time on social media, while 60 percent feel burnout from being constantly connected. Teenagers are also significantly more affected by FOMO than adults. 78 percent admitted that it was important to understand friends’ inside jokes (32 percent of adults do), while 54 percent admitted that they fear their friends are having more rewarding experiences than they are (just over a quarter of adults do). 60 percent of respondents admitted to worrying when they find out their friends are having more fun without them (17 percent of adults do) and 63 percent admit being bothered when they miss out on planned get-togethers (31 percent of adults do).

“People have always felt the fear of missing out on parties and activities even before the Internet, but social media indeed elevated the FOMO intensely,” said psychologist Adam Ferrier, noting that while FOMO always existed, social media could have served as a catalyst to intensify the effect. While adults also experience FOMO, it is at reduced rates compared to teenagers. One could argue that teenagers are more vulnerable to FOMO because they are still developing biologically and mentally, and because there are more opportunities to join social circles because of school (as opposed to adults, who can more easily separate work and play, and thus, have to search for social circles).

“Social media has a greater impact on teens and plays a role in their identity formation and their search for a sense of self,” the study said. The study also noted FOMO affects females (60 percent) more than males (46 percent). While males have similar rates from ages 13-15 (48 percent) and 16-17 (50 percent), females become significantly more affected later on (38 percent for ages 13-15, and 66 percent for ages 16-17).

Do you fear missing out because you’re over-connected? It may be time to cut back on the social media use—and start creating your own events and invite people who are also missing out so that they don’t.

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